The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Group discusses courses, election reform

Amanda Michaels | Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Student Senate unanimously approved two resolutions concerning Teacher Course Evaluations and a student discount at the bookstore and discussed a third regarding election reform at its last meeting for two weeks.

Three years in the making, the resolution on TCEs sets forth a comprehensive outline for a two-pronged system of course evaluation for students.

The first part of the proposal calls for faculty members to “communicate a vision of their courses in advance of the DART registration period,” according to the resolution. This would include loading information about course times, descriptions, goals, syllabi and evaluation methods onto a web-based platform accessible by students.

The second part allows students to voice their opinion in a questionnaire handed out at the same time as traditional TCEs, and to view the results of the survey online. Questions for the survey would be drafted by a committee composed of students, faculty representatives and a staff member from Institutional Research. Directions would note the purpose of the questionnaire, and unlike the TCEs, results could not be used in faculty reappointment, tenure, promotion or salary decisions.

“We need collaborative support with the faculty … and we want everyone to be a part of this process,” former student body president Jeremy Lao said.

Committee for Academic Affairs chair Vijay Ramanan said they will be meeting with representatives from the Faculty Senate today to gauge response.

There were no objections to approval of the resolution.

Sarah Bates, chair of the committee for Resident Life, presented a resolution recommending that the bookstore implement a student discount on merchandise.

“This is a step we have taken based on unresponsiveness from the bookstore in my previous attempts to contact them,” Bates said. “We’re hoping to pass this resolution and be able to take it to the bookstore and show them exactly what we want.”

The resolution reasons that faculty and staff currently receive a 20 percent discount on everything except class textbooks – for which they receive a 10 percent discount – and that students should be given the same consideration.

“If you give us a discount, more students will shop there and off-set any loss in profit from the discount,” Siegfried senator James Leito said.

Again, the resolution passed without objection.

Finally, in a continuation of discussion from last week’s meeting, senators debated amendments to the section in the constitution regarding undergraduate student body elections.

The two points of contention were the articles granting senators the power to vote against the will of their dorms in the event a tie, and removing the option for abstention on the run-off election ballots.

Ramanan spoke out against allowing senators to “vote by their conscience,” even if odds are against an exact vote tie putting the election in Senate’s hands.

“I know we’re trying to remove the wheeling and dealing that happens when the vote comes to Senate, but this isn’t going to help,” Ramanan said. “I trust 99.5 percent of the senators elected, but it’s that .5 percent that scares me.”

Cavanaugh senator Jordan Bongiovanni said the decision to give senators the power was based on the idea their dorm puts faith in a senator’s decision-making abilities when they elect them.

Director of Student Activities Brian Coughlin issued a word of warning.

“Senate should be careful what they wish for when granting this power,” Coughlin said. “In the event that an election comes down between a presidential candidate that’s a senator and one that isn’t, and Senate votes in favor of the senator, you could have a pretty good size uprising on campus.”

Zahm senator Mike McGinley brought up problems with the removal of the option to abstain on run-off election ballots (abstention would still be available in the primary).

“Abstention makes discontent public,” McGinley said. “Even if it doesn’t make a different in who is elected, it’s a matter of political expression.”

Fisher senator Sujal Pandya disagreed.

“We use elections to elect a leader, not to gauge the popularity of student government,” he said.

Senate came to no definite conclusions, but the amendment must pass on the Dec. 1 meeting if changes are to be implemented for this year’s election.

In other Senate news:

uMeghan Hanzlick spoke to the Senate regarding a letter-writing campaign to U2 frontman Bono, asking him to return to campus for a conference to raise awareness of AIDS in Africa.

She encouraged senators to get students from their dorm to sign and mail a form letter she provided to Bono to try to convince him to come back to Notre Dame.

“We don’t want him just for the concert, but for awareness of AIDS and other African issues, which is what Bono and his involvement in DATA stands for,” Hanzlick said.